District considers adding All-Day Kindergarten option

A committee consisting of administrators and teachers presented a preliminary plan to the board (George Lucas, Gary Knepp, Rob Hewlett and myself – Dave Yockey was out of town this month) to add an Add-Day Kindergarten (ADK) option. The plan proposed adding one ADK class to each building, which would allow up to 25 students to stay for a full day. This would be appr. 1/3 of kindergarten students who would have the opportunity to have a full day of kindergarten programming.

ADK has been shown to provide significant educational benefits for students. While by law, ADK cannot provide a broader curriculum than half-day kindergarten (since students are only required to go a half day, and can opt to do that even if full day is provided to all), it does give teachers the chance to go more in-depth and help prepare students for first grade and beyond. However, the district will make sure no student falls behind if they are in the half-day program.

Because Milford would not qualify for reimbursement from the state for adding to the kindergarten day (we are seen as too wealthy a district in the state’s eyes), this would be an extra cost that would hit our general fund. The proposal is to make this cost-neutral by charging families who choose the ADK option. Cost would be $3,500-$4,000 for the year, with families who qualify under the Free & Reduced Lunch program requirements paying $900. There would be up to 8 slots per class for Free & Reduced families; the rest would be full price. This represents the appr. 1/3 of the district that currently qualifies for Free & Reduced right now.

All slots would be available via lottery: parents would submit their child’s name, either for a Free & Reduced or a full price slot, and names would be drawn randomly. The committee had fielded a survey to determine what the level of interest was likely to be; appr. 38% of respondents said they would be interested in a full-day program at that cost, which is just slightly over the 1/3 of slots that would be available.

As discussed at the meeting, George Lucas, Gary Knepp and I agree re: questions about the program in a number of areas. First, we are concerned about cost. If a family is paying for daycare, then on average, this would be a cost “trade” for them; however, the survey showed that 62% of families are not currently paying for any daycare for their students. This is a huge percent, and choosing ADK would hit their bottom line quite hard. We asked for an evaluation of a more comprehensive “sliding scale” that would take different income levels above Free & Reduced levels into account.

Second, we are concerned about the availability of ADK for anyone who wants it. While the survey shows the slots available are close to the number of families who would be interested, there may turn out to be many more who would like the participate – plus, we do not want to turn anyone away if they want to take advantage of the program.

Last and most important, we are concerned about all our students getting the best education possible. If ADK provides an educational benefit, then all students should have that opportunity. … and it’s likely that, as the program grows, more and more will want it. How do we provide this in a fair and equitable way to all students, and when is this possible?

These questions and more will be looked at and answered over the next month, when the committee will provide a revised proposal on the program.

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